Big Ideas start with a chainsaw
The thing about a Big Idea is that it starts out rough. We channel our brawny inner lumberjacks and lumberjills, chainsaw up and set to hacking and hewing. It’s hard work, and for sure we’ll have the callouses and the splinters to prove it.
Even though it may still be a little rough around the edges, a really worthwhile Big Idea signals the world we’ve made a breakthrough.
And breakthroughs upset the status quo, generating as much resistance and skepticism as wow! Maybe more.
So it is with the hugely profitable Big Idea that mainstream products and brands should actively target the 50+ space.
In this case, the challenge is to overcome ancient dogma from the distant days of the Mad Men – beliefs so firmly entrenched that the marketing faithful do not dare question them.
The myth claims that when consumers leave the 18-49 demo their buying behavior is so rigid that they are no longer worth targeting. Even worse, they scare Millennials away from the brand. Poor sensitive dears.
In 2014, AARP announced it was joining a small group of visionary ad agencies by opening its own shop aimed at the 50-plus space, influent50.
Its heretical chainsaw revving to the max, the new team quickly slashed through the dead wood of Madison Avenue folklore. In a landmark survey of 1,000 Boomers aged 50-69 (May, 2015) they found 82% are actually willing to consider new brands when they make purchases.
Even more disruptive, the researchers asked Boomers to assess their openness to new brands and services compared to 20 years ago. To the confusion of the establishment, nine in ten said either they hadn’t changed or – heresy alert: prepare the rack and thumbscrews – are now more likely to try new things (40%+).
The time for scalpels
When it comes to targeting consumers over fifty, chainsaw-scale work is only the beginning. Going forward it requires intelligent and deft engagement.
Hint: the usual blundering stereotypes and knee-jerk reactions won’t work.
Engaging the 50+ space isn’t about a quick study of syndicated surveys, old TV shows and back issues of TIME magazine.
Success requires what ageless marketing proponent Jim Gilmartin, president of the Coming of Age ad agency calls empathy. And let’s be clear: for marketers, the purpose of empathy is not feel-good inclusiveness but the ruthless conquest of brand share from less savvy competitors.
Empathy in the service of brand growth requires the ability to communicate with Boomers based on what they think and feel and how they process their ever-evolving life experience as they make future buying decisions. Key word: buying.
All of which means refining the Big Idea with scalpels to add texture, personality, warmth and nuance. The work is too fine for chainsaws.
If a tree falls in the forest, and no one hears …
Good news for disruptive strategists: for most, the chainsaws in the Boomer forest are just too distant – in territory too daunting and unfamiliar – that they go unheard.
Even brands with acute hearing tend to misunderstand the muffled roar. According to the influent50 survey, eight in ten (83%) Boomers say marketers are making some kind of mistake when trying to appeal to their age group.
These mistakes cause huge opportunity losses in U.S. 50+ consumer space. Dominated by the 93 million members of the Boomer-Plus Generation™ – Baby Boomers, their siblings born 1940-1945 and 4 million Gen Xers who turn 50 this year – this audience owns more than 70% of U.S. household net worth and represents the third largest economy in the world.
Added to which, it is also America’s most adaptable generation, conditioned by decades of rapid change. It’s way too late for us to stop trying new ideas now.
We Boomers have empathy too. We’re happy to help Madison Avenue Millennial Wunderkinder navigate the little-known forest trails and hew their own disruptive Big Ideas.